Archaeology

By: Joel N. Shurkin, Inside Science -- Archaeologists, digging into George Washington’s headquarters at Valley Forge in Pennsylvania, have added domestic images to the picture of one of the most iconic moments of American history.

They may have found the cabin Washington had built so he could get out of the chaos of the headquarters, and perhaps eat in peace with his wife and officers.

It also turns out the Father of the Nation liked pork for dinner and may have instituted a no-smoking zone.

Rock soil droplets formed by heating are part of the evidence used to content that a disastrous cosmic impact 12,900 years ago triggered the Younger Dryas cold period but they most likely instead came from Stone Age house fires, according to new research of soil from Syria.

The Younger Dryas lasted a thousand years and coincided with the extinction of mammoths and other great beasts and the disappearance of the Paleo-Indian Clovis people.

In the 1980s, some researchers put forward the idea that the cool period, which fell between two major glaciations, began when a comet or meteorite struck North America.


The village of Nichoria in Messenia was located near the palace of Pylos during the Greek Bronze Age, when Greece was considered a Superpower of the Mediterranean. The region thrived on its trade and economic stability, culture, and art and architecture, including great monuments, palaces and writings. The collapse of the Bronze Age (beginning around 1,200 BC), including the abandonment of cities and the destruction of palaces, is known as the Greek Dark Age. 

Nichoria remained through both the Late Bronze Age and the Greek Dark Age, and scholars have suggested that it turned to cattle ranching during the region's collapse. That made sense, the remains of cattle bones are prevalent among bone fragments in the soil. 


It's no secret that war is tough on innocent buildings so it is no surprise that four of six major archaeological sites in Syria have been heavily looted and damaged, according to an analysis of high-resolution satellite images. 

The report analyzes 6 of the 12 sites that Syria has nominated as World Heritage Sites: Dura Europos, Ebla, Hama's Waterwheels, Mari, Raqqa, and Ugarit. Images from 2014 show numerous pits throughout three sites where ancient cities once stood. The pits generally do not appear in similar images from 2011, when the conflict in Syria began. 


The "Basel-Gasfabrik" Celtic settlement, at the present day site of Novartis, was inhabited around 100 B.C. and is one of the most significant Celtic sites in Central Europe.

A team recently examined samples from the backfill of 2000 year-old storage and cellar pits from the Iron Age and found the durable eggs of intestinal parasites like roundworms (Ascaris sp.), whipworms, (Trichuris sp.) and liver flukes (Fasciola sp.).


The oldest recorded stone tool found to-date has been unearthed in Turkey.


The chance find of a humanly-worked quartzite flake, in ancient deposits of the river Gediz in western Turkey, show that humans passed through the gateway from Asia to Europe much earlier than previously thought, approximately 1.2 million years ago and provides new insight into when and how early humans dispersed out of Africa and Asia.

The international team used high-precision equipment to date the deposits of the ancient river meander, giving the first accurate time-frame for when humans occupied the area.


Though humans did not exist 400,000 years ago, human ancestors did - and they left behind engravings on a fossilized shell from Java, establishing a new benchmark for the earliest known example of ancient humans deliberately creating pattern.

The newly discovered engravings resemble the previously oldest-known engravings, which are associated with either Neanderthals or modern humans from around 100,000 years ago.  The zig-zag pattern engravings were only recently discovered on the fossilized mussel shells, which had been collected 100 years ago. There is no way to know if the pattern was intended as art or served some practical purpose.  


There are not a lot of new stories to be found by the humanities in ancient parchments, but millions of documents stored in archives could trace agricultural development across the centuries, thanks to increasingly progressive genetic sequencing techniques.

Thanks to sequencing, vital information can be derived from the DNA of the parchment on which they are written.


Even while the Roman empire was in decline, precious substances, such as frankincense, were being transported to its furthest northern outpost in Britain.

Archaeologists writing in the Journal of Archaeological Science used molecular analysis of materials previously thought to be of little interest, debris inside burial containers and residues on skeletal remains and plaster body casings, to show that frankincense were being used even in the farthest corners of the Empire. Evidence for the use of resins in ancient funerary rites is uncommon outside of Egypt. 


Empires have risen and fallen and often it has been due to changes in the climate. When agriculture was a more demanding endeavor people wanted the most fertile lands and as that shifted, so did cities.

For that reason, climate change has often been cited as the most logical reason for a huge population collapse in Europe at the end of the Bronze Age. Now archaeologists and environmentalists say they can prove definitively that climate change could not have been the culprit. Because the changes in climate that scientists believed to coincide with the fall in population in fact occurred at least two generations later.